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Thread: Sekai? Norco?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Medic Zero's Avatar
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    Sekai? Norco?

    So it looks like I am going to be picking up this mint condition 1990 Sekai Mountaineer later today. I'm looking for a back-up for my circa 1988 GT Timberline that does dual duty as my daily commuter and my bike-camping/short tour bike.



    My questions for the combined wisdom of the board are:

    - Anyone familiar with this frame? The geometry looks similar to my GT (excepting the lack of the Triple Triangle of course) and that is what I am looking for; comparatively long chainstays, steel frame, eyelets for mounting fenders.

    - Any pitfalls I should know about? (Bad metallurgy that year, that kind of thing)

    My understanding is that Sekai got bought by Norco circa mid-80's, rumor has it that this is just a rebadged Norco. Anyone know if that is true?
    Last edited by Medic Zero; 08-30-11 at 01:55 AM. Reason: Typos
    ISO: 22" GT Rebound frame, year 2000 model

  2. #2
    the bike made me do it oneredstar's Avatar
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    Looks like a Norco Mountaineer. Fairly generic old MTB bike with entry level components. If it fits you in size, I would say it could work. I would suspect it has single wall rims though.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Medic Zero's Avatar
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    Thanks!

    My GT is a 22", pretty much just right. I'm going to spin the Sekai around the block and see how it feels. I'll bring some tools with me. It feels a little adventurous given the bikes condition, but I am going to try and limp it the 17 miles home if it runs. It does say it is the SL model. Any idea if that had any better components? I figure I'll roll the 7 speed rear cassette until it dies if it is basically new right now. It'd be nice if the derailers were functional for now, but I am dreaming about it being some sort of barn find: sitting since 1990, maybe ridden once a month on Sunday afternoons, add air, lube and ride its dusty but beautiful old-skool high end components home!

    Obviously it's not though, just the right sized, right geometry frame with most of the braze-ons I need. I love steel, can't really ride anything else, spoiled for it. I like both the feel and the aesthetics of just this geometry that only lasted for a few years.

    In the end I expect the outcome to be similar to my GT, a now 23 year old frame acquired for $5 that I've ridden from near the Canadian border to near the Oregon border and thousands of kilometres more. Eventually through hand me downs from the GT and the parts boxes the only thing that will remain of the original Mountaineer will be the frame and fork. I'm kinda diggin' the stem too. So the wheels won't be a problem as long as they limp me home tonight. If not, I'll put it on the bus, but was passes for a mass transit system around here calls for three bus changes and a trip just as long in time as cycling it!
    Last edited by Medic Zero; 08-30-11 at 01:54 AM. Reason: Typos
    ISO: 22" GT Rebound frame, year 2000 model

  4. #4
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    $80 is a good deal, snap it up. New, only a BSO sells for that.

    Importer brand names change Norco is an Importer , POE Vancouver BC.
    Sekai is/ was part of the Maeda group, in the past.. as sun tour was also.

    now a handful of Taiwan companies make the vast majority of brands to contract requirements.
    that's where the investment money went.. from around the world.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 06-16-11 at 04:20 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Medic Zero's Avatar
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    Thanks! On my way!
    ISO: 22" GT Rebound frame, year 2000 model

  6. #6
    Senior Member Medic Zero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    $80 is a good deal, snap it up. New, only a BSO sells for that.

    Importer brand names change Norco is an Importer , POE Vancouver BC.
    Sekai is/ was part of the Maeda group, in the past.. as sun tour was also.

    now a handful of Taiwan companies make the vast majority of brands to contract requirements.
    that's where the investment money went.. from around the world.
    What is a "BSO"?

    I picked it up. I'm afraid it might be a little small for me. It dawned on me that I had to put a long stem and seat tube on my GT and it is a 22 inch frame. I need to get fitted one of these days, I think I should probably be looking for 23" bikes rather than 22's, and this Norco/Sekai I think is a 21". Won't know for sure until I get around to putting a new stem and seatpost on it. It's going to be close.

    I'll post some pics tomorrow when it is sunny, although most of the tubing joints are welded, the one at the seat post/TT is lugged. The brakes are UBER cheap "Lee Chi"'s, but the rear derailer is SIS indexed! I totally didn't expect that.

    I oiled the chain, put the seat as high as it could go, hung my tool roll saddlebag from the real nice Sekai seat and rolled away! Riding home, I had a big smile on my face and I feel like I stole a time machine for $8o - this thing hasn't hardly been touched since leaving the bike shop 2o years ago!

    A mile or two down the road the front brakes knuckled under when I braked hard. I had had the foresight to bring along some old pads I had that would be better than whatever I expected it to be equipped with. When I pulled the old ones off it looked as if no one had ever braked on them before!

    Other than a few dings and scratches from having things bump into it while it sat in a garage for the past two decades, the thing is in totally mint condition. The saddle is quite interesting, at first glance it looks like a regular hard MTB saddle. Then you notice the sides come down pretty far, making it a little wider. Looking under it I was surprised to see two short coil springs! I may actually keep this saddle, in fact, I think I am going to move it over to my main bike and see how I like it. I prefer double sprung saddles and have used a variety of them over the years and have one on my GT right now. The saddle might turn out to be a real nice bonus.

    Although it is only tapped for one bottle cage, it has two sets of eyelets in the rear for mounting both fenders, and a rack!
    Last edited by Medic Zero; 08-30-11 at 01:57 AM.
    ISO: 22" GT Rebound frame, year 2000 model

  7. #7
    Senior Member Medic Zero's Avatar
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    Barn score! Serial # location? Review:

    Anyone know where the serial number is on these? There isn't one on the bottom of the bottom bracket.

    1990 Sekai (rebadged Norco?) Moutaineer SL:

    So here it is in all its glory on the ride down the Interurban, parked in front of a Sakai earth compactor, and with my warmed sake for christening my new ship sitting on the saddle. The Chrome does a good job of keeping hot things warm and cold things cool. I had warmed up the glass bottle of sake at home before I left and wrapped it in a handkerchief. It was still warm a couple of hours later when I unwrapped it and cracked it open. I rode the Sekai 12 of the 18 miles home, hopping a bus for the last leg when the Interurban Trail faded away once again, this time right at a transit center with a bus that would get me very close to home sitting there.





    I brought the tool roll off of my GT up to Everett on the bus in my Chrome Metropolis. These days I almost always roll panniers, tool roll, and no bag, but I had gotten so used to carrying a ton of books in the Chrome for school the past year while I was dismounted, I actually found the weight of my loaded bag comforting.

    I had no idea what shape the bike was going to be in so I brought everything I thought I might need: medium sized adjustable wrench, wire cutters, real Allens for better leverage in case anything was frozen, real screwdrivers for the same reason, pliers, needle nose pliers, small vise grips, lube... all this was in addition to the Alien II, tire levers, a couple of tourniquets, patch kit, rubber gloves, zip ties, and tubes that usually live in the tool roll. I was pleased that the tool roll handled all this as well as a ziploc baggie of old brake pads and hardware to field retrofit to get me home.

    I also brought two spare tubes borrowed from my girlfriend since the GT now rolls odd size tubes (1&1/8 for the Gatorskins) and a pair of kevlar belts from the parts boxes. I was afraid I'd have puncture flats on the way home, but no problems there, so I didn't end up mounting those. I did end up using; the small vise grips, crescent wrench, needle nose pliers, and wire cutters when I swapped out the front brake pads. As well as the crescent and one of the Allen wrenches for the seat adjustment and the stem height adjustment.

    Speaking of adjustment, when I opened up the front brakes barrel adjuster, I'm positive I was the first to ever do so. It's brand new! My girlfriend noticed that the rear wheel has almost no clearance between the rim and the pads. I have yet to adjust that barrel roller, it is just factory perfect still.

    The cavernous Chrome I packed with some clip-on lights in case I didn't make it home before sun down, a bottle of water, some snacks (Zucchini bread and an oatmeal cookie), a wool sweater, scarf, warm gloves, and my Gerber multi-tool, Columbia River Knife and Tool G.U.P.P.Y. and a good knife. Plus my phone, which had a browser window of Google Maps - directions on it for the trip back already queued up. I still felt like I should have printed out a map though. I prefer to hold and see it that way. I can never pack lightly. If I think I might need it I bring it. Every now and then I have a day where I use the Gerber and the Guppy and the duct tape.

    When I got home I realized I had forgotten the duct tape and first aid kit again! Good thing I had no need for either! I also forgot my helmet.


    The one lug, such as it is.



    There's a little rough paint around the brake hanger.
    Note upper rack mounting point and non-quick release seat adjustment. I rode for a little while with half an Alien (for the Allen wrench) in one shorts pocket and the crescent wrench in the other until I got it dialed in.

    Note how shiny everything is. The only rust is on a ding on the side of the top of the seat post. Also, when I raised the seat post a tiny bit of rust dust came out. Even the rust is old on this ship! All the handful of dings on the otherwise brand new bike seem to have come from car doors or other mishaps while it sat in a garage for the past 2o years!



    Cranks will have to go. Kickstand stays. I'm stoked it came with a kickstand, I love kickstands! This one actually feels pretty lightweight and swings with a pleasing smoothness. That rear wheel will have to go, but I'll transfer the brand new (basically NOS) indexed 7 speed onto whatever wheel I put back there. I might have the 36 spoker the GT had before I upgraded to a 48 kicking around the back of the storage space still.

    I was able to jack up the original Kenda rear tire to 75 PSI for a little faster rolling for my 270lb self. Kind of impressive. I expected the tubes to be fine from the description of a nearly new, always garaged bike. I've salvaged tubes out of bikes much older than this one and rolled on them for years. The tire rubber I was concerned about though. I almost pulled the tires off my girlfriends GT and brought them, but I didn't feel like carrying them on three buses to get there. So I gambled that the tires would be up to it, otherwise I'd be walking to the nearest bus stop with the bike. There are some cracks, but the rubber is still pretty supple, surprisingly non-brittle for two decade old tires. So much so, that after the first couple of miles at about 50 PSI (still 10 above what they were originally rated) I brought the rear up to 75. Not the 90 PSI that I used to run my Town & Country's at but much easier and faster riding than those original equipment, Norco-marked, Kenda near-knobbies on pavement. It was fun rolling on big bouncy tires again.

    Twin lower eyelets means racks and fenders happiness. Unfortunately that pretty blue water bottle cage is occupying the only taps for those, but aftermarket accessories will take care of that little problem. Front derailer is serviceable for now. If I really start riding it (instead of it being a back-up for my main ride), the derailer will get replaced if it can't handle a larger tooth chain ring. By then I should have a spare for it from the GT.

    OEM "Lee Chi" brake pads. I pulled the original pads off of the front brakes and replaced them with some out of the parts box. I'd swear the tiny bit of wear you see on these I put in the couple of miles I rolled on them before I found a nice shady bench at a bend on the Interurban trail to wrench and snack at. That lower 3/4 of the brake pad? Absolutely pristine! Untouched, never been braked on.



    I originally brought spare brake pads because I was afraid that after oxidizing for twenty years they'd be brittle. They weren't too bad in that regard, but when for some reason that weren't really working and then knuckled under I went ahead and switched the front ones. The rear ones are definitely weak, and a totally inferior sub-standard ancient design (as cheap a base model as you can imagine, in addition to being early), but were enough of a help to new pads on the front that I'd rather get back on the road than spend the last bit of day light trading NOS old cheap brakes for the brittle, worn out, with rusty hardware but good quality modern pads I was able to dig up out of the bottom of my parts box. She'll get decent used brake assemblies and good quality pads soon.

    I like the frame, it feels like good steel, it's nice and stiff like I like it and has everything I wanted except for 2-3 water bottle cages. It felt pretty light by my standards, but that is because my GT weighs a ton! Since eventually with all my bikes all that remains is the frame and sometimes forks from the original, all I was really looking for was a frame with the features this one had, which basically narrowed it down to early 90's MTB's. I'm digging it. It put a big smile on my face to be able to roll away on it.


    I hope riser bars, a taller stem and a little taller seatpost make it fit the way I like, which is rather upright. I didn't get a good picture of the saddle but I like it enough to try it on my daily ride. I suspect it might be a really good sleeper saddle. It too is marked Sekai.


    I'm considering going with those translucent orange pedals when I replace the original ones. Anyone know of an orange stem and orange bar tape I could match those to? I'd like to complement the nice blue paint, but am afraid the anodized light blue pedals would be going to far. I think I'd like to find an orange seat and maybe post to, if anyone manufactures either.

    A couple of my friends have already commented that they think it is an attractive bike. All in all I think I did great!



    P.S. The mechanic at Velo seemed uninterested when I told him I purchased a Sekai today. :/
    Last edited by Medic Zero; 08-30-11 at 02:10 AM. Reason: Typos
    ISO: 22" GT Rebound frame, year 2000 model

  8. #8
    Senior Member Medic Zero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    $80 is a good deal, snap it up. New, only a BSO sells for that.

    Importer brand names change Norco is an Importer , POE Vancouver BC.
    Sekai is/ was part of the Maeda group, in the past.. as sun tour was also.

    now a handful of Taiwan companies make the vast majority of brands to contract requirements.
    that's where the investment money went.. from around the world.
    Thanks. I couldn't tell from the sketchy information I could find on the web how things shook out. I thought maybe Norco is making MTB frames in Canada by the mid-90's and so wasn't sure where this came from. I had dreams of it being super high end and having come from one of Sekai's boutique makers, but knew that was extremely unlikely from what little I know of its status as a brand at that point. It's exactly what I expected and wanted, in crazy mint condition, so I'm not complaining!
    ISO: 22" GT Rebound frame, year 2000 model

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